Notes for Teachers



Using stories is fun, but the process should not be considered trivial or frivolous. Indeed, strong pedagogical theory supports using stories in classrooms. A good story can be enjoyed without warm-up or follow-on activities; it can provide both new language to the reader as well as content for further consideration and reflection. However, the proper combination of exercises for use before and after the story is read can help guide the students learning and help the student get the most out of the interaction with the story.

The exercises presented after each story are in no way meant to be comprehensive. Teachers should choose the exercises and questions they feel best address the classs learning goals. The exercises should also serve as a model for creating further exercises.

Myrtis Mixon and Access students in Elista

Myrtis Mixon and Access students in Elista

<-- Back

Story Presentation

The stories do not have to be read in sequence. Your first choice could be the story you think that has the highest interest for your group. Each story can be presented in several ways. Here is one way.

1. Before reading, if the story has an illustration (please see the DVD), the teacher can ask students to look at it. They can also read the title. Students guess what the story will be about.
Teachers can also have the students turn to the Vocabulary exercise, at the end of the story, and work with a partner to determine which words are known and which are unknown. They
can explain the known words to each other. The teacher should point out that these words will be presented in bold in the text of the story so that students can guess the meaning of the word from context while they are reading. The actual exercise should not be done at this point. If necessary, the teacher gives a partial explanation of the words or example sentence at this point, but not a full explanation.

It is important for the teacher to have read the story in advance. The teacher can then prompt the students with a few key questions about a dilemma or issue that is covered in the story. These questions often take the form of What would you do if?

2. First reading. The teacher can read aloud to the class, with the students following in their books. Alternatively, students can keep their books closed and listen to the teacher read the story. This is a good exercise in listening. Still another approach is to have students read silently.

3. Second Reading. It's always good to hear a story twice. Regardless of the approach used in step 2, a second reading should follow. Students could take turns reading. Or, the teacher
could use the reading technique called echo reading (or choral reading) for all or part of the second reading. Echo reading is the technique whereby the teacher reads a sentence, and the classimmediately repeats it. This technique speeds comprehension. In short, a variety of approaches to reading should be used in steps 2 and 3.

4. The teacher gives students time to ask questions about any difficulties with the story.

<-- Back

Storytelling and Retelling

It is beneficial to teach students how to retell the stories with the
appropriate tone, rhythm and pace to convey meaning. When they retell the story, they should not try to memorize the stories word for word. In fact, allowing the student to improvise in
English encourages the creative and authentic use of English inside and outside of the classroom.

<-- Back

Types of Exercises

The exercises at the end of each story promote comprehension, vocabulary, verbal and written skills, and critical thinking skills. It is not necessary to use all of the exercises.

The order of the exercises is:

I. Understanding the Story
II. Vocabulary
III. Now you Talk
IV. Now you Write
V. Role Play

The only divergence from this order is in position V. If another type of exercise is added, like grammar or sentence completion, it is placed in position V, and Role Play is then placed in position

VI. The Role Play exercise is best last, because it is an opportunity for the students to both consolidate the new vocabulary and grammar they have learned and to experiment expressing themselves with new content and ideas from the story.

<-- Back

About the Exercises

Pair work (2 students) or small group work (3 to 5 students) is suitable for all of the exercises, regardless of whether it is suggested in the exercises. Pair work and group work provide the
students with a natural way to practice listening and speaking.

It is best if the teacher circulates during the exercises in order to help struggling pairs or groups by guiding them with further questions or models. It also gives the teacher the opportunity to pick up common errors, both in terms of the storys content and the use of language.

The teacher should not interfere with the flow by correcting students in the middle of an exercise as this pulls them off the task at hand and makes the student more self-conscious about their speech, which greatly reduces fluency. It is better for the class to collectively correct the common errors after finishing the exercise.

<-- Back

    I. Understanding the Story

This type includes discussing the main idea, multiple choice about the main idea, and answering questions about the story. The teacher may add other questions. After this exercise, it is helpful to have a few pairs or groups report their conclusions to the class. Others could disagree or ask questions. Don't ask all the groups to report, because that becomes too repetitive. Be sure to call on the students who may be too shy to volunteer. This exercise allows the teacher to find out the depth of the students' understanding of the stories.

<-- Back

    II. Vocabulary

Included are a variety of vocabulary exercises: matching, completing the sentence, explaining words to a partner, writing new sentences, explaining words in context. The exercises require the students to apply their understanding of the words, rather than just provide a definition. In the following examples students must answer the questions that contain a new word in bold.

        Share nicknames used in your family or among your friends.
        When do you feel like a statue?
        When do you need shelter?

Research has proven that this type of vocabulary exercise helps students apply the word in an authentic, natural way. The more often the student retrieves the word, the more likely the word will be remembered.

<-- Back

    III. Now you Talk

These exercises are uniform, asking the students to discuss, in pairs or in small groups, questions about the story. The teacher may add other questions that might arise. After the discussion, the teacher may ask for some groups to report. As always, it is important to limit this reporting while being sure to call on more quiet students.

<-- Back

    IV. Now you Write

The suggestions in this section include writing a summary, letters, emails, dialogs, opinions on the stories, descriptions of characters, and expanded reports on the discussion from the
"Now you Talk" section. It also includes rewriting the ending. Again, the teacher may add topics for the writing section and alsogive suggestions about the appropriate length for the writing.

This exercise is suitable for a homework assignment. Upon returning to class, or after the students write in class, the teacher could call on volunteers who would like to read their writing.
Students should not be required to read their writing aloud to the class. Another idea is to have a place in the class or in the hallway where students can display their writing. This increases the audience for whom they are writing, and thus their motivation to write. It also allows other students to continue learning and practicing the new language.

<-- Back

    V. Role Play

In this section are three to six situations, either re-enactments of a scene or of problems posed in the story, or an imaginative scene that could have happened in the story. Give the students time to prepare their dialogs. The teacher needs to determine whether that particular class needs to write down the dialogs or do the dialog extemporaneously. In either case the teacher needs to give the students time to prepare. If the number of students in the class is larger than the number of roles provided by the three to six situations listed, more than one pair may be assigned the same situation. The role plays will be different when done by different pairs. Students usually enjoy this exercise. If students in your class have never done a role play, it would be helpful if the teacher and a brave student, or two students, model one of the situations. With young teenagers, it takes several classes for students to get used to the idea of role play. Once they do, it becomes one of the most powerful tools in the teachers
repertoire for learning and practicing new language skills.

<-- Back

Alternative exercises

This group of exercises, which appears from time to time in position IV, includes:

  • Grammar Practice: students rewrite sentences using different verb tenses or nouns and pronouns
  • Oral Grammar Practice: students retell sentences using different verb tenses or nouns and pronouns
  • Combining Sentences: students combine two or three sentences to make one sentence
  • Adjectives: students change adjectives into the comparative form
  • Sentence Completion: students complete a sentence with an appropriate ending
  • Chronology: students put events in the correct order
  • Practicing Writing Questions: students write questions based on a sentence

Please be confident that you as the teacher will know when to use as many or as few of these exercises as seems appropriate with different classes. You want to use the material to create as much interaction among your students as possible. Also, feel free to create new activities that will deepen your students' learning.

<-- Back

Ideas for Using the Video

Some of the stories in this book were dramatized by the students and filmed. The accompanying DVD contains these filmed stories. Some are dramatic presentations, with or without a narrator, and some are a series of pictures with a narrators voice. The idea of the DVD is to give your students some ideas about how to elaborate on the Role Play activities already mentioned above and that are found after each story in the exercises section. Dramatizing a story is a good way to practice already known phrases and structures and to explore new uses of language. We strongly recommend that students try dramatizing other stories they read as well as stories they have written themselves.

Here are a few ideas on how to use the accompanying DVD

<-- Back

Questions and Answers

Enjoy watching the dramatized story after reading the story and doing the exercises. Compare the dramatized version to the written version. Answer:

  1. How were they different? Why do you think the changes were made?
  2. Was the dramatized version as you had imagined? If not, what was different?
  3. How would you have done all or part of it differently?

Option: First try watching with only the sound (cover the TV screen with a cloth, for example). Try to visualize the story as you hear it. Watch and then answer the questions above.

<-- Back


Before watching the video, students dramatize the story themselves. After acting it out in groups or in front of the class, the students then watch the video and discuss differences.

<-- Back

No sound

Watch the video without sound. Using the pause button as frequently as needed, have students identify characters and explain what is happening in the scene.

Option: Allow students to work in groups to reproduce a script that will fit with the action on the screen. Groups can then test their reproduction by trying to dub the film with their own script.
Afterward, watch the video to check the accuracy of the dubbed version.

<-- Back

Freeze Frame

Freeze the scene ahead of time by pushing pause. Allow students to identify the characters and explain their guesses. Have them also try to guess what part of the story is being shown. Push play and check your answers.

Option: While watching the story from the beginning, you can pause the story in order to point out specific details gestures, facial expressions, clothing, decorations in the background,
position of characters in a scene, etc. A teacher can then ask Why? questions to motivate discussion.

<-- Back

Follow-on Writing

Have your students write a letter or email to the students who dramatized the story. In the first paragraph, they explain what they liked about the dramatized version. In the next one or two
paragraphs, they can explain how they think this could be converted into a major film (recommend famous actors for certain parts, for example). In the last paragraph, they summarize their thoughts. Students with artistic talent can even try making a poster to go with the film idea.

<-- Back